Case Study: When Paper Forms Go Digital

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Keeping track of time can be expensive, just ask Stanley Associates. The IT services contractor for the government and other large concerns has saved between $16,000 and $20,000 a year on interest payments alone just by moving from a paper-based to an online system of accounting for contract labor.

And while it used to take Stanley six business days to process all its labor forms and check them for accuracy, the online system knocked the time down to two days.

Stanley's chief financial officer, Michael Zaramba, says charges and payments are processed more quickly and accurately since his firm adopted Deltek Time Collection software for most of its 1,000 employees earlier this year. The software offers management, tracking, and reporting of employee labor by project across the enterprise.

Moving this capability online netted several benefits for Stanley. It was hard, for example, for Stanley to keep paper contracts in up-to-date compliance with the extensive business rules the federal government demands of its contractors. Corrections and revisions were carried out by snail mail.

"There were accuracy problems with the paper system and issues like people losing time sheets and having to correct for that," says Zaramba. "And moving the payment information online makes our managers more aware of how funding ebbs and flows. They get instant access to who is charging for projects and the labor utilization which makes for better planning and analysis."

"We're giving project managers the ability to see how much time is billable; how much is non-billable and non-productive," says David Sample, director of Deltek's Time & Expense Group. "And the software helps them re-allocate resources almost in real time."

Adds Zaramba: "We grew 52% last year, with more employees and more remote locations. Hard-copy time sheets were not an effective way to collect labor costs."

Time Collection works with Deltek's own General Ledger software (part of the company's ERP package called the Deltek Enterprise Solution), but also is designed to work with most enterprise software from other vendors such as Peoplesoft and SAP. The company says it has yet to come across an accounting system it couldn't integrate with.

Stanley went through a testing stage that took about two weeks time for each of the company's divisions worldwide to switch over to Time Collection. For the most part Zaramba says the implementation "went swimmingly." Because of the efficiency of moving online, Stanley was even able to phase out one of two positions in the accounting department responsible for processing labor cards.

Workers Can 'Phone In' Changes

The one hiccup was getting the Web version of Time Collection to work at some of Stanley's sites. The 5-megabyte Java client couldn't always make its way through the company's firewall. A solution Deltek suggested and Stanley created was a separate FTP site to download the software. (In November, Deltek released its new DHTML client which eliminates the download problem entirely. Stanley says it plans to roll this out shortly.)

The software license for Time Collection ranges in price from $45 to $70 per user (depending on volume) for a one time fee. Time Sheets can be accessed via a company's network or through the Web. There is also an innovative IVR (Interactive Voice Response) option that lets workers record their time charges into the system using a phone. Stanley is one of several Deltek customers using IVR for employees who don't have access to a computer.

Deltek says its average customer has between 700 to 800 employees, though the range goes from as small as 50 up to 15,000. "It's extremely scalable," says Alan Salton, Deltek's VP of Sales for Deltek's Enterprise Systems.

And unlike wading through a paper trail in search of mistakes or to review a job, Stanley makes use of Time Collection's "floor check" feature. "It's a great audit trail capability," says Zaramba. "As a government contractor there are strict rules on how you need to account for your labor cost. That's one of the reasons we stayed with a paper-based system (as a physical record) for so long. But now with Time Collections I can go online and make sure that people are doing their correct labor changes."

Time Collections also lets Stanley set up forms so certain information fields can't be changed or entered incorrectly with, for example, outdated job numbers. For Stanley, it's a little like saving time on mistakes that can't be made.

Technology writer and former internet.com editor David Needle has been writing about computing and online resources for 20 years. He lives in Silicon Valley.

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